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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It has been awhile

I haven't posted one of my devotionals in awhile, mainly because it has been a hastle getting to the computer since we moved to Memphis. But this one touched me particularly today. It reminds me of Brother Lawrence and his simple devotion to our Master. Sometimes in the midst of dirty diapers, the long cycle of weeks (sometimes it feels like I live for Fridays only to repeat the process in a never ended cyle), the endless list of chores, the cumbers of this life from aches and pains to burdens, I guess in all of it, I forget what life is about. And this helped me remember at least for a night. And my chains of this life are but a thread of this woman's own, and still she seemed to be able to live life with simple beauty, free from the guile that often betakes my attitudes about so many things that I come across.

Elisabeth Elliot's Daily Devotional

Title: Never Frustrated
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
The first time I saw her she had her back to me as she stood washing dishes at the kitchen sink. She was wearing a dress with a small black and white print, and an apron. She had a slight hump between her shoulders, gray hair, and I could see the wire for her hearing aid running down over her left shoulder. I said something to her but she did not respond.
"She's deaf," my sister said in a loud voice. I thought it was rather too loud a voice, and asked (softly), "You mean she can't hear a thing?" "Not even if you shout!" Ginny shouted. It was true. Mrs. Kershaw couldn't hear even if you shouted--unless you shouted directly into the tiny microphone she kept pinned to her dress.
I touched her shoulder, and she turned to me and smiled. "Oh, here she is!" she said, in a flat, nasal tone and a slight lisp. She had heard about the daughter who was away at college, and her smile of welcome was pure radiance in the wrinkled sweet face.
Mrs. Kershaw was a widow who had come to help my mother. She was quite literally a godsend. Over the years Mother had had a succession of "helpers" who were usually more liability than asset. (One of them met her at the front door when she came home after a shopping trip with, "Oh, Mrs. Howard, I have a surprise for you!" Mother's heart sank. The girl had spent the day, instead of at the tasks assigned, painting her room--woodwork and furniture--shiny chocolate brown.)
God must have seen that Mother had learned her lessons of patience and humility and deserved at last one of his saints, a woman utterly without guile, ambition, touchiness or egotism of any sort. Dear Mrs. Kershaw! When we get together for family reunions we always talk about her. We remember how . . .
She lived alone in a big old wooden house a couple of miles from our home. One of us would pick her up in the car every morning and take her home in the evening. Usually she was at the door, ready to come out when the car arrived. Once in a while we went to the door. There would be a sign on it: "I am home. Please come in." She could not, of course, hear a knock or a doorbell or the telephone. If you wanted her, you had to walk in and find her. She was never afraid the wrong person might want her.
When she got into the car she said what a nice day it was. If the sun shone she said, "Folks can do things outside, work in their gardens." When it rained she said, "Gives folks a chance to do what they wants."
We were sitting at the lunch table in the kitchen one day when a painter was climbing around outside the window. "Gets around pretty soup-le!" she remarked, meaning supple.
One evening at dinner (she always sat at the table with us) the discussion was about Bible names. Five out of us six children had Bible names and Mrs. Kershaw thought this was such a nice idea. My father kept her in on the conversation by speaking into the microphone which she held out to him. She smiled and nodded. Next evening, apropos of nothing, she said, "Harrison isn't in the Bible. I looked him up." Bless her heart! Her only child was named Harrison, a middle-aged man by then.
We always had family Bible reading after dinner. One evening my father said he would read from 1 Thessalonians. "That's a nice book," Mrs. Kershaw said. Nobody answered her remark, partly because we were supposed to be quiet for the reading, and partly because nobody could easily reply--we would have had to ask for the microphone. She looked around the table inquiringly; then, supposing that our silence might indicate disagreement, she said, "I don't know whether it's any good or not, but I like it." We smiled and nodded our agreement and she settled back with a contented sigh.
She often took care of a man who was in his nineties, and she would tell us about him. He was inclined to be a bit crotchety and unpredictable, but she said, "When they gets old they gets that way sometimes. Hope I'm not that way when I get old." She was in her mid-seventies but not, in her mind, even approaching "old."
She would spend hours sitting with my step-grandmother who lived with us and was confined to her room upstairs. Nana was quite deaf, too, so the two of them would chatter away, often at cross-purposes, but not minding, Mrs. Kershaw doing her best to cheer up an otherwise very gloomy lady not much older than herself. Once my father overheard a conversation between Mrs. Kershaw and a Belgian lady who was visiting us who did not speak English. The answers did not match the questions at all, but he let them alone until he heard Mrs. Kershaw repeating several times, "What is your name?" The Belgian lady, by guesswork, figured out what she was asking and replied, "Victorine." "Oh," said Mrs. Kershaw, "Freda. That's a nice name." At that my father felt it was time to help out.
Mrs. Kershaw was not a great cook, but she knew how to make applesauce and brown sugar cookies. The gallons of the former and dozens of the latter were consumed as fast as she could turn them out. She could do plain country cooking--meat, potatoes and vegetables--and she loved to see us eat. One of my brothers spurned the cabbage on his plate. She begged him to eat it. "Why don't you like cabbage? You like chicken, don't you?" she said. Often her comments amused us beyond concealment but she always laughed with us, looking eagerly around the circle for any clues, confident, I feel sure, that she knew we were all crazy about her.
She did get old, finally. I suppose she was well along in her eighties when she had to go and live with Harrison in a tiny cramped room, so packed with her furniture and boxes and things that she could hardly move. I visited her there in a little town some distance from ours. "They calls it a clam town," she said of the village near the New Jersey shore. "Well, I call it a clam town, too--the people just kinda clams up, you know. Yes. Not friendly. They're not friendly at all." They don't know what they missed.
If ever a woman accepted the demands of her own life with simplicity and grace, it was she. It was a positive and active acceptance of the given. Words which have taken hold of our minds today like some noxious fungus--hassle, frustration, hang-up, put-down--were never in Mrs. Kershaw's vocabulary, nor could they have been. She wasn't interested in herself. She had nothing to say about herself or her own feelings. She lived for us.
I think of the contrasts Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 4. It is illuminating to set them in two lists and read straight down one list, then read down the other and ask oneself which describes his own life.
handicapped--never frustratedpuzzled--never in despairpersecuted--never have to stand it aloneknocked down--never knocked out
"We know sorrow, yet our joy is inextinguishable. We have 'nothing to bless ourselves with,' yet we bless many others with true riches. We are penniless, and yet in reality we have everything worth having."
For Paul to have said that--Paul, who had suffered the loss of all things--ought to shake up our categories of what is "worth having." Mrs. Kershaw would have said the same. I doubt that it ever occurred to her that she had been deprived of anything in her life that really mattered. The Lord had made his face to shine upon her and had given her peace, and she brought that shine and that peace to our house every day.
Copyright© 1979, by Elisabeth Elliot

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